The Ancient Library
 

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On this page: Aristotle (continued)

ARISTOTLE.

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and supplemented by foreign ingredients.— (3) The works on natural science are beaded by the Physics in eight books, treat­ing of the most general bases and relations of nature as a whole. This is followed up by four books on the Heavens or Universe, two on Beginning to be and Perishing, and the MltSOrOKglca in four books, on the phe­nomena of the air. A short treatise On the Cosmds is spurious : that on the Directions and Names of Winds is a fragment of a larger work on the signs of storms ; and the Problems (physical) is a collection gradually formed out of Aristotelian extracts. Of mathematical import are the Mechanical Problems (on the lever and balance) and the book about Indivisible Lines. Natural his­tory is handled in the ten books of Animal History, and in four books on the Parts, five on the Generation, and one on the mode of Progression of Animals. The work on The Motion of Animals is probably spurious, certainly so the one on Plants in two books. Aristotle's treatise on this subject is lost. Turning to Psychology, we have the three books On the Soul and a number of smaller treatises (on the Senses and the Objects of Perception ; on Memory and Recollection ; on Sleep and Waking/ on Dreams; on Divination by Sleep ; on the Length and Shortness of Life ; on Youth and Age, Life and Death ; on Breathing ; on Sound and Voice, etc.; that on Physiognomy is proba­bly spurious).—(4) Of the three general works on ethics, the Nicomachcan Ethics in ten books, the Eudemian Ethics in seven, and the so-called Magna Moralia in two, the first alone, addressed to his son Nico-machus, and of marked excellence in matter and manner, is by Aristotle himself. The second is by his pupil Eudemus of Rhodes, and the third a mere abstract of the other two, especially of the second. The essay on Virtues and Vices is spurious. Closely con­nected with the Ethics is the Politics in eight books, a masterly work in spite of its incompleteness, treating of the aim and elements of a State, the various forms of Government, the ideal of a State and of Edu­cation. A valuable work on the Constitu­tion of 158 states is lost, all but a few fragments.1 Of the two books on (Econo­mics the first is spurious. Corresponding partly with the Tragic, and partly with the Ethics, is the Rhetoric in three books,2 and the Poetics, a work of inestimable worth,

1 The Constitution of Athens has, however, been recovered (ed. princeps, 1891).

2 The Rhetorica ad Aiexandrum is probably by Anaximenes, q.v. 2.

notwithstanding the ruinous condition in which its text has come down to us. [The Rhetoric is a masterly treatise on oratory, regarded as an instrument for working upon the various passions and feelings of humanity.] Sundry other prose writings are preserved under Aristotle's name, e.g., that on Colours; the so-called Mirabiles Auscultatlones, a collection of memoranda on all sorts of strange phenomena and occur­rences, mostly bearing on natural science ; on Melissus, Zeno, and Gorgias ; six Letters, which however are not regarded as genuine, any more than the 63 epigrams out of a supposed mythological miscellany entitled PeplOs. But we may safely assign to him he beautiful Scollon, or impromptu song, on his friend Hermeias, which takes the form of a Hymn to Virtue.

A story dating from antiquity informs us that Aristotle bequeathed his own writings and his very considerable library to his pupil and successor in the office of teacher, Theophrastus, who again made them over to his pupil Neleus, of Scepsis in the Troad. After his death his relations are said to have buried them in a cellar, to guard them against the mania for collecting books which characterized the Pergamene princes. At last they were unearthed by Apelllcon of Teos,a rich bibliophile, who brought them to Athens about 100 b.c., and tried to restore them from the wretched state into which they had fallen through the neglect of 130 years. Soon after, at the taking of Athens by the Romans, they fell into Sulla's hands, who brought them to Rome. Here the grammarian Tyrannlon took copies of them, and on this basis the Peripatetic An-dronicus of Rhodes prepared an edition of Aristotle's works. This would indeed partly account for the wretched condition in which some of them are preserved. At the same time it can be proved that the prin­cipal works were known during the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.c., so that the story affects only the author's original MSS., among which a number of works till then un­published may have come to light. Though the writings preserved form rather less than half of the number which he actually wrote, there is quite enough to show the univer­sality of Aristotle's intellect, which sought with equal ardour and acumen to explore and subdue the entire domain of research. He was the originator of many lines of study unknown before him,—Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric in its scientific aspect, Literary Criticism, Natural History, Physiology,

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